While running any mentoring program takes time and commitment, all to often there isn’t a comprehensive understanding of the core elements needed to ensure the mentoring program’s success. For a mentoring program to be truly effective it must have a stable foundation.
A three-side structure is arguably one of the most stable foundations known to man, as physics demands the force be divided equally wherever pressure is applied. However, as strong as a three-sided structure is, when one side is removed the structure collapses. One of the most effective mentoring-program models borrows from the strength of the three-sided structure, with there being three essentials to make the mentoring program a success.
Leg 1) Program Manager
Mentoring programs cannot run without a competent manager. While technological advancements provide companies with access to databases and even automation of some key administrative tasks, without someone capable steering the ship the program will eventually run aground.
A qualified program manager ensures continued support and will constantly provide program evaluation on effectiveness while being able to recommend improvements. Most importantly, a competent program manager will guide, encourage and support participants at both an individual and group level to ensures the organization and its participants receive the most benefit from the program.
Leg 2) Expertise
Even through it is a powerful means of achieving organizational objectives, a mentoring program is also a major investment for any organization, demanding considerable time from key members of its staff. As such, it stands to reason that a mentoring program using best-practices techniques, professional support and training will maximize return on investment.
Here there are two options:
1) Hire a program manager who possesses specific mentoring experience and expertise.
2) Provide outside support, guidance and resources for an inexperienced program manager.
Leg 3) Technology
Effective mentoring programs are coming to rely increasingly on new technologies to optimize success. When a program is broad in scope, or covers a wide geographical territory, technologies such as webinar access and eLearning software are essential. These technology permit mentoring programs to be accessible anytime by anyone, even in remote areas, and also allow participants to be matched up even in distance regions or countries. Whenever possible, these applications should be integrated to make access easy while optimizing the user experience.
Why a Two-Legged Model Falls Short:
The most crucial thing to realize is a successful mentoring program takes all three legs to work, and if you remove one leg your program will topple. Even worse, if two legs are removed your mentoring program will most likely never get off the ground. Consider these three examples:
Program Manager and Expertise:
If a mentoring program is not very large it may be possible to run the program with a qualified program manager and good resources. However, as soon as your mentoring program starts to grow, or requires a broader geographic reach, having access to the proper technology will be indispensable if you hope to hold your mentoring program together without placing undo strain your program manager.
Program Manager and Technology:
While it is definitely possible to start a mentoring program without adequate expertise, your program will not be able to reach it full potential without a competent program leader. You can certainly find an eager, albeit inexperienced, volunteer to administer the program, and the program may even run smoothly, for a while. However, there is no question your mentoring-program will fall well short of its potential if the program was not properly designed, or if the program participants weren’t prepared to enter into a successful learning relationship.
Expertise and Technology:
While it may seem plausible, and even possible, to build a solid mentoring program with only expert resources and technology, without the personal attention of a competent program manager the mentors and their pupils will tend to lose momentum. While some of the more motivated pairs will find success regardless of the strength of the program, most will lose their way.
All in all, any successful mentoring program must be primarily focused on delivering organizational objectives. Expertise is required when designing a successful program to be able to address, and continually evaluate and improve, core objectives. Expert training and professional resources are indispensable in fostering strong mentoring relationships, increasing participants skill levels and optimizing program outcomes. The only way to accomplish the objective is to have your mentoring program stands on all three legs.